By Kevin Thompson

sports@gctelegram.com

HOLCOMB After a 6-0 start in 2010, the new year has been a little rough on the Holcomb girls.

After holding on for a tough 50-48 win at Spearville against that ranked opponent on Tuesday, the Lady Longhorns hosted another tough team in the Colby Lady Eagles on Friday.

This time the result was not so good as they fell, 51-38, dropping from the unbeaten ranks and leaving some questions left to answer.

More rebounds, fewer turnovers, more points. That's been the formula for Holcomb's success, and upon what they were counting Friday as they faced their 6-1 Great Western Activities Conference foe.

This time, though, it was Colby capitalizing on all those factors with the Eagles winning the rebounding battle and hitting their shots more often.

And their defense stepped up big, too.

Down 27-24 at the 5:26 mark of the third period, Colby went on a 19-2 run (15 straight at one point) in a 10-minute stint, holding Holcomb to just a pair of field goals before Breanna Gottschalk broke the streak. It was a Steinbeck-like drought of disastrous import, something not lost on Holcomb coach Kelly Snodgrass.

"Basketball is a game of runs," she said. "The other team is going to go on a run. It's how you respond to it."

She said her girls seemed to respond by taking the attitude of "oh, no, things aren't going our way" and they lost their mental toughness. They responded to the Colby runs with forced shots off one pass or one dribble into traffic, something they aren't used to doing.

The Longhorns had been stymied in mini-droughts throughout the first half. During the first 16 minutes of play, they failed to score in two spans of time totaling nearly 11 minutes.

To its credit, Holcomb used a 7-2 burst to end the half down only 21-20. Gottschalk put back an offensive rebound, then converted a traditional 3-point play before Kylee Amos hit a layup at the buzzer to keep the Longhorns within a point.

Katie Pfeifer ignited her team to start the second half, hitting her second 3-pointer followed by a two-pointer. Then she assisted Kyshia Prieto on a give-and-go to give Holcomb a 27-24 lead.

But that's when Colby went on its extensive run, and the fire went out for Holcomb.

Colby beat Holcomb at its own game, winning the rebounds, 34-26, and commiting fewer turnovers, 14-25.

And while both teams shot the ball from the field about the same (15 field goals for Colby, 14 for Holcomb) it was the free throws that made the difference.

The Eagles were 19-of-32 at the line, while Holcomb was just 6-of-9. Those 13 free throws matched the difference in the final score.

For Snodgrass, it was a step back from the team's strengths that cost them the game, especially in rebounding. Even though Colby had a height advantage, this should not have happened, she said.

Same goes for the turnovers and shooting.

Spearville was a physical battle with tough girls, and Colby was equally as tough. Now, Snodgrass said, her

team knows how it measures up against quality aggressive teams.

For Colby coach Parker McKee, playing tough defense and putting on the pressure is the key to his team's success. At 7-1, that has worked well thus far.

His team's height and aggressive style are also critical, and in this fledgling conference with strong teams they will need to use those advantages. Tonight his girls used them to stop Gottschalk "the motor that makes them go," McKee calls Holcomb's senior leader.

They held her to just 4-of-10 shooting and three boards.

Holcomb (7-1) will face four consecutive conference opponents, and Snodgrass said her girls know what they need to do.

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Colby 9 12 16 14 -- 51

Holcomb 7 13 7 11 -- 38

Colby Hockersmith 0-3 2-6 2, Shields 1-3 0-0 2, Katr. Kaus 2-5 0-1 4, Kath. Kaus 3-6 4-6 11, McKee 0-1 0-0 0, Curry 0-2 0-2 0, M. Bell 4-11 6-7 15, Finley 3-6 2-4 8, L. Bell 1-4 4-4 6. Totals 15-42 19-32 51.

Holcomb Pfeifer 4-7 2-3 12, Lohfink 0-1 0-0 0, Prieto 1-5 0-0 2, Asmus 0-2 0-0 0, Gottschalk 4-10 3-3 12, A. Stegman 2-6 0-1 4, Landwehr 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 14-38 6-9 38.

3-pt. goals Colby 2-11 (Kath. Kaus 1, M. Bell 1), Holcomb 4-12 (Pfeifer 2, Gottschalk 1, Landwehr 1). Rebounds Colby 34 (M. Bell 6, Finley 5), Holcomb 26 (Gottschalk 7). Turnovers Colby 14, Holcomb 25. Total fouls Colby 16, Holcomb 20. Fouled out none.